168. Minutes of Verification Panel Meeting1

    • Hard-Site Defense and the FY 72 Safeguard Program
    • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
    • State
      • John N. Irwin
      • Ronald I. Spiers
      • Raymond Garthoff2
      • Seymour Weiss3
    • Defense
      • David Packard
      • Paul Nitze
      • Gardiner Tucker
    • CIA
      • Richard Helms
      • Bruce C. Clarke
    • JCS
      • Adm. Thomas Moorer
      • Gen. Royal B. Allison4
    • ACDA
      • Gerard Smith
      • Philip J. Farley
      • Spurgeon Keeny
    • OST
      • Dr. Edward David
      • Attorney General John N. Mitchell
    • OMB
      • James R. Schlesinger
    • NSC Staff
      • Col. Jack Merritt
      • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
      • K. Wayne Smith
      • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed:

  • —to formulate the issues for the President so as to get a decision on what our FY 72 Safeguard Program should be, and its relation to our SALT position;
  • —to put before him the full range of proposals, including Mr. Smith’s views on the difficulties in changing our SALT position;
  • —to review our SALT position during the next month.

[Page 678]

Dr. Kissinger: I thought we could use this meeting to get from Dave Packard a sense of the meaning of a hard-site defense—what it is and how it differs from the four-site defense plan.

(Mr. Packard briefed from the outline at Tab A.5 He was interrupted from time to time by the following questions.)

Mr. Kissinger: Why is hard-site defense cheaper? Is it because of the radar?

Mr. Packard: It would use smaller radars and local interceptors. The proposed hard-site configuration is spelled out on pages 14 and 15 (of Tab A).6 Each pattern would include three radars and six interceptor farms with 16 missiles in each farm. This would give you 100 missiles and 21 silos defended. You could have a heavier defense against a higher threat since the modules and the concentration of interceptors in the modules could be built up.

Mr. Kissinger: I have heard the argument that the entry price for one MSR is the same as the entry price to saturate the system—that there is no difference between one radar and ten. Would these radars all be netted in the same general area?

Mr. Packard: They would operate autonomously.

Dr. Kissinger: Suppose they should go after Whiteman and all the Sprints were controlled by one MSR. To get one radar they would pay the same entry price as to saturate the system. We don’t solve the problem by putting in 10 radars.

Mr. Packard: But we would increase the number of interceptors and make it more difficult to saturate.

Dr. Kissinger: If I may be the devil’s advocate—if the key element is the number of interceptors, why not increase the number of units in Safeguard?

Mr. Packard: It would be more expensive.

Dr. Kissinger: You can increase the number of interceptors at lower cost?

Mr. Packard: Yes, Also, they could operate to a reasonable degree without MSR. We would have 700 interceptors.

[Page 679]

Mr. Kissinger: 700 interceptors to defend 100 Minutemen? In terms of SALT if we want an agreement that would permit hard-site defense, we would have to have a high limit on interceptors.

Mr. Packard: We can’t put a limit on interceptors.

Mr. Nitze: The number of radars and the number of interceptors are both important. We would have to have both.

Mr. Packard: (returning to the briefing outline) On page 16 we indicate what a four-site Safeguard would contribute to hard-site defense.7

Dr. Kissinger: You are proposing a combination of four-site Safeguard and hard-site defense?

Mr. Packard: We’re showing what four-site Safeguard would contribute to hard-site defense.

Dr. Kissinger: If you take away these Safeguard things, you are vulnerable to pin-down,8 for example?

Mr. Packard: You would be more vulnerable to pin-down. That and the next point on defense-in-depth of Minuteman are the most significant.

Dr. Kissinger: Isn’t pin-down decisive?

Mr. Packard: Pin-down is determined in part by the frequency of the radar and the time involved. You could get some protection against pin-down with a dedicated system without Safeguard.

Dr. Kissinger: But if you can’t, you’ve had it?

Mr. Packard: Some scientists say ‘yes’ and some say ‘no’.

Mr. Nitze: The pin-down risk is largest for SLBM. A four-site system with Spartans gives you some defense of Minuteman against SLBMs.

Dr. Tucker: This is the point of the omni-directional defense. The proposed system for hard-site defense would defend only against the ICBM corridors. The four-site system would be a convenient way to defend against SLBMs from the ocean.

Mr. Packard: To summarize: if the defense of Minuteman is the only problem, in the interest of lower expenditure you could go to a dedicated hard-site defense directly. You remember Panofsky was critical of the Safeguard system for Minuteman and thought there were cheaper ways to do it.9 I agree with him now. Also, the area defense [Page 680] capability of Safeguard adds to the effectiveness of hard-site defense. The Safeguard program is already underway. Hard-site defense could be added in these terms.

Dr. Kissinger: If the essentials of a hard-site defense are a larger number of radars and interceptors, is it reconcilable with SALT? How would you specify what would be permitted and what prohibited?

Mr. Packard: We have presented two options on page 17 (of Tab A): set a finite time period for negotiation, after which we would begin deployment of hard-site defense, or a symmetrical agreement.10 Asymmetrical agreements are not attractive. Dr. Kissinger: To us or to them?

Mr. Packard: To them.

Dr. Kissinger: How about an NCA defense for them and a four-site Safeguard for us?

Mr. Packard: It would be better than what we have now.

Dr. Kissinger: It would provide a base.

Mr. Packard: On page 18 (of Tab A) we have indicated that hard-site defense would be allowed only at launch complexes east of the Urals in the USSR and west of the Mississippi and east of the Rockies in the U.S.11 This would mean roughly equal populations. On page 19 we discuss the effect of Soviet cheating. Even without hard-site defense, if 300 Minutemen survived, without cheating, they could generate 29 percent Soviet fatalities by themselves.12 With cheating, this drops to 4 percent with 2500 Soviet interceptors and zero with 5000. The situation would be very bad if there were cheating without hard-site defense. If we had hard-site defense and the Soviets cheated, we would still have a reasonably livable situation. The question, of course, is whether the Soviets are more likely to cheat if we have hard-site defense? The program that we are recommending is derived from a combination of Air Force and Army studies. We might modify the details, of course.

Dr. Kissinger: What are you recommending?

[Page 681]

Mr. Packard: We are recommending that we consider changing our SALT instructions and that we move along with our R&D program for hard-site defense.

Dr. Kissinger: Those are two separate questions. Should we stick with our current proposal for the next year?

Mr. Packard: Next year we should move into advanced R&D for hard-site defense.

Dr. Kissinger: Would you continue construction at all the authorized sites?

Mr. Packard: Our Safeguard alternatives are on page 28 (of Tab A).13 1) We could slow up the program at the cost of approximately $1 billion per each year’s delay. 2) We could maintain the four sites already approved by Congress which would maintain continuity, keep costs where they are and maintain momentum. 3) We could continue with the four sites plus advanced Washington preparation. We would have to include this in the budget. This has the same features as the four-site program but adds more. It is a logical step toward area defense, and it starts deployment around Washington which agrees with our latest SALT proposal. We think this is the best alternative.

Mr. Schlesinger: There wouldn’t be much saving in FY 72.

Mr. Packard: We estimate about $100 million, which is of course, worth saving. I might say that the estimate of additional cost brought about by delay is a very general estimate.

Mr. Schlesinger: Don’t you have another option: to go ahead with what is in the budget but not tie the construction money to the Warren site. If SALT goes in the direction of NCA, you could then use the money for NCA.

Mr. Packard: If we get agreement on NCA we could transfer some of the work to the NCA configuration if we could get it approved.

Mr. Schlesinger: Or you could go for authorization for a fourth site, that would not necessarily be Warren.

Dr. Kissinger: We have three things to consider: 1) what should our next year’s Safeguard program be? 2) what is a sensible Safeguard program in the absence of a SALT agreement? and 3) what is a sensible Safeguard position to take in SALT? We don’t have to answer (2) as long as we do not do anything inconsistent with our SALT objectives. We need to get a Presidential decision on the first question and how to relate it to our SALT position. We need to know what we really want in SALT. I know some of you will shudder at any change in our SALT position and we will certainly not undertake it lightly. If [Page 682] a move from our present NCAABM position would scuttle the negotiations, the President would obviously weigh it very seriously. But we should have a discussion before March 15 of what we really want from SALT.14 Would the Russians buy a three or four-site system in exchange for NCA? We need to look at the problem. Our immediate problem is how to frame the issues for the President to decide. What we need to put before the President is the immediate issue of the FY 72 Safeguard Program, with enough of SALT to relate the two. (to Gerard Smith) Would you summarize your position, Gerry?

Mr. Smith: I haven’t changed my position after listening to Mr. Packard’s briefing. If I go back to the Soviets with limited radars and interceptors and then we decide on a new system—in General Allison’s words, that dog just won’t hunt. We would be kidding ourselves and the President if we presented this as a thing he would like to go before the world proposing. Some people might argue that we could take the line that the Soviets had accepted NCA but not as part of the package. Therefore, we could feel free to propose X thousands of interceptors which would work to our advantage. This would raise a real question about the President’s seriousness of purpose. Also, we might lose on the Hill on Safeguard. This would give added strength to Safeguard opponents.

Dr. Kissinger: If we adopted a stay-where-we-are on ABMs, this would mean three or four sites as against NCA. Each site would be keyed to the existing system.

Mr. Smith: We could say to the Russians, how about one or two sites. But four sites as against Moscow hasn’t a chance with the Russians or with public opinion.

Mr. Kissinger: You know my hang-up; we are creating a rationale for an area defense, building a three or four-site defense and asking the Russians for an NCA defense. We have no authorization for NCA defense and don’t really know why we want it.

Mr. Packard: The key issue is not hard-site defense. The key is to insure the survival of our land-based missiles. It might be possible by a mobile land system or by controlling or reducing their ability to attack and their accuracy. But we can’t avoid facing the issue of survivability of our land-based forces. We could, of course, move to launch-on-warning, but I wouldn’t recommend it. We could also go to a sea-based system which has some attractions and some advocates.

Dr. Kissinger: (to General Allison) What dog will hunt?

Gen. Allison: The question is whether or not the August 4 proposal in its totality permits the US to do the things necessary to protect [Page 683] the security of the US.15 I think it does. If this is the case, we should proceed down a path which would not require a change in the August 4 proposal which would further diverge the U.S. and Soviet views. This might be to proceed with an NCA-type structure but slow down the full Safeguard program.

Mr. Kissinger: So you support which position? What does the President ask for next year? Does he ask for authority for a fourth site or for NCA?

Mr. Schlesinger: Authority for a fourth site is in the budget.

Mr. Packard: (referring to page 17 of Tab A) We don’t need to change the present proposal. One of our options is the finite time limit. We could continue R&D in 1972. If we get what we ask for, we would modify the program.

Mr. Smith: You’re talking about four or five years. That’s a lot of money in the bank compared to 12 months. I wouldn’t advertise this time period. I would recommend we go ahead with R&D but not commit ourselves to do something in four or five years.

Mr. Packard: We have to do something.

Mr. Smith: I agree, but we could keep our options open in R&D.

Mr. Kissinger: Gerry Smith wants to limit construction to two sites and continue R&D. Dave Packard wants to continue on four sites and advanced preparation for NCA. (to General Allison) What do you want the President to authorize? What does he decide on the program for next year?

Gen. Allison: I would shave off one site and go toward an NCA, or at least do something to show some interest in the NCA concept. I agree with Mr. Smith; it would be disastrous to SALT to change our proposal.

Mr. Mitchell: Don’t you have the authority for four sites? It’s a question of funding, isn’t it?

Adm. Moorer: There’s also a question as to whether Congress will go along with NCA.

(Mr. Irwin circulated the paper at Tab B)16

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Irwin) What is your rationale for this?

Mr. Irwin: We would do what we can under Option E; harden some Minuteman sites; continue construction on two sites; defer construction at Whiteman (approved in FY 71); request no authority for [Page 684] procurement or construction at Warren (site survey authorized in FY 71); carry out R&D for a hard-site defense; and carry out studies for NCA. We shouldn’t commit ourselves to a complete program. We should slow down the construction of Safeguard sites. If we go NCA, we could go ahead with Warren and call off the work on Whiteman. This would keep our options open. I would go along with Gerry (Smith)’s position plus Dave Packard’s point of Washington advanced preparation. I wouldn’t go as far as the whole Defense proposal. My position is similar to General Allison’s.

Mr. Kissinger: (to General Allison) I thought you said four sites plus advanced Washington preparation.

Gen. Allison: Mr. Irwin’s proposal wouldn’t stop the four sites. (to Mr. Irwin) You wouldn’t plan to cancel construction, would you?

Mr. Irwin: Would you continue construction now?

Adm. Moorer: We would ask for authority for Whiteman and no authority for Warren.

Gen. Allison: It would be a difference in pace.

Mr. Helms: Has anyone taken any soundings on the Hill on NCA?

Mr. Packard: No, but I don’t think there’s much interest. There’s more interest in Minuteman survivability. There would be a problem, though, if we back off from what we asked for last year.

Dr. Tucker: But we have authorization for four sites.

Mr. Mitchell: But you only have authorization for a site survey at Warren.

Mr. Smith: We got construction authority for Whiteman last year and would ask for construction authority for Warren this year. I might cite a passage from the conference report on the authorization for the FY 71 appropriation in which Congressman Rivers made it clear that the House conferees considered protection of national command and control essential and that nothing should be done to prohibit programs to ensure the survivability of this vital element. This indicates the House sentiment on NCA.

Mr. Kissinger: This doesn’t explain why we want NCA.

Mr. Smith: Central to any beginning of management of the Chinese threat is a hardened control center. This is central to any control system.

Mr. Kissinger: But last year we were told that Minuteman defense was bearable and area defense was out.

Mr. Smith: I have to have an effective system for bargaining purposes. This would give us ten minutes over Washington to decide.

Mr. Kissinger: Suppose we said both sides could continue building what is already underway. Suppose the Soviets accepted or said [Page 685] they would discuss NCA or a three or four-site system. Which would we accept?

Mr. Smith: I would accept the four sites, but I don’t think this is likely. The potential for expansion would be tremendous—it would be so easy to jump to a broader system.

Mr. Kissinger: Is it easier to jump from a four-site system to area defense or from Moscow to area defense? I thought their system was more expandable.

Mr. Smith: We won’t have a hard-site defense in six years if we started to build it today. I think there might be a possibility of discussing one or two Safeguard sites, but not four sites.

Mr. Nitze: If NCA defense is authorized next year, we would not be spending more than $11 million. If we delay authorization for a year, we would delay a year in starting NCA.

Mr. Kissinger: How can we object to asking for authorization for NCA if we are proposing it to the Russians? How can we convince the Russians we’re serious? If it’s so important, why not ask for it?

Mr. Helms: We should get some feeling for the sentiment on the Hill. Mr. Kissinger: It would be a helluva thing to negotiate for it and then find out we can’t get it. (to Ron Spiers) What do you think?

Mr. Spiers: If we plan to move away from the August 4 proposal, we shouldn’t go beyond the design study for NCA. If we propose to reaffirm the proposal, we could go beyond this stage.

Mr. Garthoff: We would give a signal with a design study and would give a stronger signal if we undertook a site survey.

Mr. Kissinger: It would be even stronger if we go for authorization. I don’t want to be stuck with an agreement and no authority to proceed.

Mr. Packard: If we can’t change the SALT instructions, it is very important that we don’t give on anything.

Mr. Kissinger: How would you change the instructions?

Mr. Packard: I recognize the practical matters of negotiation. Maybe we could put it in better terms. We could say that we are concerned about Minuteman survival. We need assurances on the reduction of their long-range, land-based missiles. If we can’t get a satisfactory reduction, we will have to consider measures of protection, including hard-site defense.

Mr. Mitchell: What would be your Congressional approach?

Mr. Packard: We would tell Congress that we plan to move ahead on the same basis on construction of the four sites, since we have to protect ourselves if we don’t get an agreement. We wouldn’t accelerate the four-site construction, but would go ahead on the same basis and add a requirement for NCA.

[Page 686]

Mr. Schlesinger: You ask for the fourth site and, if you get an agreement, put the money into NCA.

Mr. Spiers: Might this stimulate new Congressional interest in an ABM agreement? They might think this is money down the drain.

Mr. Packard: I don’t think so, but I have no specific judgment. Mr. Weiss: If we can get an agreement under Option E, would we be prepared to forego Safeguard? Would we not be concerned about the threat to the survivability of our forces under those circumstances?

Mr. Kissinger: The answer is to change our instructions if the threat to survivability would be so large. Or we might take other measures under the agreement. We have to decide what we want if we can get it. For purposes of the immediate decision, we have to put before the President the range of the proposals that have been made. We must consider a sensible ABM proposal and the question of survivability. During the next month we can take a look at our SALT position. We will draw the President’s attention to Gerry Smith’s views on the difficulties in changing our SALT position. Since it is the survivability of Minuteman that worries us and not the survivability of Washington, why not protect what worries us if it doesn’t add to the dangers. This is our last chance to bring our thinking and our negotiations into line. We won’t change our position lightly, but let’s take a look at it.

Mr. Irwin: If we’re going to change our instructions to something other than Option E this will affect the budget.

Mr. Kissinger: We would have to consider the impact on Congress and the impact on the negotiations. Are the Russians more likely to reach an agreement if they see it would take an agreement to stop our program? Or will they think we are locked into our program and the negotiations are just a cover? Gerry (Smith) thinks the Soviets may think we are just using the negotiations. On the other hand, if they can slow us down by talking about an agreement, might this give them an incentive to talk but not to settle?

Mr. Smith: Even if a four-site system were negotiable, we would need $16 billion.

Dr. Tucker: $8 billion for a four-site system; $16 billion if you include NCA.

Mr. Smith: It still wouldn’t do what needs to be done. The Soviets could do it in. If we start with one site we could get operational experience and still have the potential to expand.

Mr. Mitchell: Isn’t there a time factor? Could we just lay it on the table and say we would be willing to back up? We have an investment but we would be willing to scrap it to get an agreement?

Mr. Smith: That’s our proposal. But we would be negotiating to let the Russians have Moscow and we would have the four sites and would be spending for a hard-site defense.

[Page 687]

Mr. Mitchell: That’s time insurance.

Mr. Kissinger: We can defer that decision. But we need a decision this week on: (1) which of the options for next year would be the most consistent with a basis for SALT agreement; (2) if we could, do we want to change our SALT position; (3) if the answer to (2) is yes, would the improvement be great enough to warrant upsetting the structure of the negotiations?

Mr. Packard: We might look further at the mobile option. Gerry (Smith) could accept that change.

Mr. Kissinger: I agree. Let’s make that part of the review.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–107, Verification Panel Minutes, Originals, 1969–3/8/72 [3 of 6]. Top Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Deputy Director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs; member of the U.S. SALT Delegation.
  3. Member of the Planning and Coordination Staff.
  4. Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for strategic arms negotiations; JCS representative on the U.S. SALT Delegation.
  5. Tab A was not found attached. Another copy of the 28 page outline indicates that Packard’s briefing dealt primarily with two issues: hard-site defense and the FY 72 Safeguard program. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–007, Verification Panel Meeting, SALT, 1/25/71)
  6. Pages 14 and 15 of Packard’s briefing outline proposed a hard-site defense system that, using modified Sprint interceptors and integrated into the existing Safeguard command and control network, defended 10 to 40 Minuteman silos per radar module deployed.
  7. Page 16 of Packard’s briefing outline listed seven ways in which Safeguard contributed to hard-site defense.
  8. Pin-down refers to the possibility that an opponent could destroy missiles still in their silos or soon after launch by exploding nuclear weapons in their paths.
  9. See footnote 4, Document 109.
  10. The referenced page detailed the two options. Under a “finite time limit,” the United States would “continue to negotiate for an agreement that could involve reductions to limit land-based missile vulnerability, but formally state that if an agreement is not reached in a finite time period (say 4–5 years), we would begin deployment of HSD.” A symmetrical agreement would “include provisions now for an HSD deployment by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union.”
  11. Page 18 of Packard’s briefing outline listed “HSD Constraints to Aid in Verification.”
  12. A table, entitled “The Retaliatory Capabilities of Minuteman Alone With Soviet Cheating on ABMs,” appears on page 19.
  13. Page 28 detailed the three Safeguard alternatives summarized by Packard.
  14. The next round of SALT talks was scheduled to begin in Vienna on March 15.
  15. On August 4, 1970, the U.S. SALT Delegation tabled a detailed “Description of the U.S. Proposal for an Initial Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement,” which was based upon NSDM 73 and NSDM 74. For the texts of those NSDMs, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXII, SALT I, 1969–1972, Documents 97 and 100.
  16. Not found attached and not further identified.